Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bandoneón on the Mandolin

Rarely have I come across a piece which I enjoyed so much but understood so little as that in today's video of Bandoneón played by Joseph Brent on the mandolin, Ken Robinson on the clarinet and Eddy Khaimovich on contrabass. Bandoneón is the first movement of Suite Troileana composed in 1975 to honor Piazzolla's friend and mentor, Anibal Troilo. Piazzolla recorded it the same year on the LP, Lumiere, and it is available today on increasingly difficult to find reissue, Piazzollissimo. It is an interesting piece with lots of contrast - going from a light milonga to a Brubeckesque jazz interlude to a sober reminiscence.

Brent and his fellow musicians have not taken the easy road and "simply" arranged the piece for their particular set of instruments. They have deconstructed it and reassembled some of the parts to create a piece which has the title Bandoneón and shares (now and then) the primary theme, which you will hear mostly from Robinson's clarinet, but otherwise represents a new and totally enjoyable piece of music. The piece opens with a baroque inspired credenza on the mandolin, followed by some mellow work on the clarinet and then all of a sudden dawg music breaks out and they totally swing only to bring it back to earth with a sober ending - paralleling but not duplicating Piazzolla's own closing of the piece. The quality of the video is bad - you can't even tell what kind of mandolin Brent is playing (although I would hazard a guess that is Pähkinä built by Brian Dean) - and the sound shows what can happen when you have a single, narrow band microphone and mismatched instrument volumes.

I hesitate to single out a single musician in this trio, they all fill their role perfectly, but Brent stands out as the virtuoso of the group. Joseph Brent is no stranger to Piazzolla's music: his first solo CD, Point of Departure, contains three Piazzolla tracks from the Histoire du tango series. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and currently on the faculty of Mannes College. There has probably never been a mandolin player with better technical skills and he matches that with an enthusiasm for every imaginable role a mandolin can fulfill from classical to Broadway to bluegrass to jazz. The easiest place to observe his artistry is on his YouTube channel although, being a victim of luthier envy, my favorite video is this one which comes from the YouTube channel of the builder of Pähkinä.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

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